Every little girl has a story to share. Often a dark, grim secret. A subplot to the joys and sorrows of girlhood. The people, faces, voices, hands, eyes vary but the story remains the same. Of innocence lost. Of shame inflicted by perverted adults. Of children who learn ‘not to talk’. Of children who, as adults, learn to hide the scars and move on with life.
This is little X’s story :
“She was 8. She stood by the window, looking down at the square, full of kids, who screamed, laughed, fought, yanked at each others’ hair, played and mostly laughed. Her small feet, were on the tip of her toes, peering down to catch every action of her friends. Her eyes were forlorn, as if they yearned to be a part of that laughing, playing pack yet something dark and sad held her back. She had, of late, started to stay away from her playmates, had quietened more than normal. Nobody may have noticed, but she knew that she was not the same any more. She was confused, scared and embarrassed of herself. She wanted to run, play, scream, jump and be happy, but ….
It all started a few days ago, when she was taken to the new doctor-uncle in the neighbourhood, for a nasty cold. Something was wrong when he kept poking and probing her behind that curtain he had drawn between her and her mum. His touch. His hands touching her in places that felt uncomfortable. She felt a wretched feeling running deep in her veins. By then he had pulled back the curtain and was busy writing out a prescription. She had come home, scared. But she never told anybody anything because she didn’t know what to say.”
And this is just one of those millions of stories. A little girl, even before she has grown aware of her girlhood is subjected to hands, often unseen by an adult eye, pinching her baby bottom, touching her, spreading a cold shiver, a hot flush, a wretched feeling through her being and then disappearing. Dirty eyes running up and down her body, making her cringe, wanting to hate herself and hide in shame. What is worse is that more often than not it is a known face, a relative, a family friend, the friendly neighbourhood uncle. Outside the known walls, the darwan, the shopkeeper or even a man who walked past her.
And in the middle of this trauma and shame, most of these little girls do not find the words to articulate the pain. And in some cases, even if she does manage to talk, the adults are not ready to accept the truth.
The sexual assault, in whatever form on manner, inflicted upon children leaves a scar that is very hard to remove and difficult for the child to deal with. I happened to speak to a few of my friends while preparing to write this difficult piece and what I found surprising and painful is that a number of women they know have been living with such scars from various stages of their childhood that haven’t healed. They have taught themselves to move on, ways to hide behind big bags, heavy dupattas, loose clothes, dodge dirty hands in the crowd and keep out of sight of the ever smiling genial uncle who had little control over his rogue hands.
Let’s take off those rose tinted glasses and stop living in a world that believes that such things are figments of a child’s imagination or that these are rare cases. These incidents happen everywhere and it can happen to anybody. Even little boys. I will not quote statistics to prove my point. Enough has been proven by numbers, but mere numbers haven’t been able to change anything. However much we dwell this grim reality, we are at best scratching the surface. The ambit is much larger. The solitary incident that I have addressed here is only the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that a large group of perverted, twisted predators, in the guise of genial human beings are preying on our children.
Talk to your child. Tell her or him the difference between ‘good’ touch and ‘bad’ touch. Ask them to tell you the moment they feel uncomfortable in someone’s company. Win their trust. Do not push them away by doubting them, that would be the worst thing possible for a traumatised child. Shed your own inhibitions and talk to them freely. Tell them that there is no reason for them to feel embarrassed about their body or hide. It is the pervert who is wrong to touch them inappropriately. SHE or HE IS NOT GUILTY.
The child often does not understand sexual abuse. Just like little X, he or she is confused, scared and embarrassed. Let us help them tell us their story instead of living with the scars for the rest of their lives.